As much as we may not want to admit it, a game’s style goes a long way—especially in a market as crowded as the App Store. With so many games from so many developers, the right icon and the right visual presentation are often the be all and end all of standing out from the pack. And while those of us who love games know that graphics don’t make for a good game, it’s hard to ignore the allure of stylish games.
That’s why I jumped on Brandnew Boy ($3.99), the latest action RPG from Oozoo. Sporting the Unreal Engine and a beautiful cel-shaded art style rich in color, the game is instantly stunning—especially in motion, where the smooth framerate and fast action prove to make an already-attractive game even more gorgeous. Much of the attention the game has received is because of its presentation.
Thankfully, unlike some pretty-yet-disappointing games out there, Brandnew Boy manages to delight in terms of gameplay, as well. It’s certainly not the best action RPG on the platform, but its unique combat controls and hearty adventure make it worth a spot on your home screen.
The game puts you into the shoes of a mysterious man known only as the “Rookie" as he finds himself lost in a strange, egg-filled world. Through a set of bite-sized standalone missions and countless objective-tweaked variants, you’ll come to learn more about Rookie and his quest, the world around him, and the creatures within it. During your adventure, you’ll venture forth to fight increasingly-tough battles and increasingly-gigantic bosses.
It’s the game’s take on combat and not its story, though, that makes it worth checking out. Through some intuitive touch controls and the introduction of a simple timing mechanic, combat in Brandnew Boy is transformed from the standard “hammer buttons to attack" into something a little more elegant and entertaining.
To initiate an attack on an enemy, you tap on it. To continue to attack, you can continue to tap. It’s simple, straightforward, and effective. Where things get interesting, though, is in the game’s combo system. As long as you can maintain steady attacks within a brief window, you will maintain a combo that makes you increasingly powerful. To do so, though, you need to time your attacks with a small timer bar. Pressing too soon or too late in succession, or failing to dodge an enemy attack with a swipe in the desired direction, will lead to your combo being broken.
In practice, combat starts to feel like a strange hybrid of Batman: Arkham Asylum. There’s a certain rhythm and candor to Brandnew Boy’s combat; Rookie’s graceful jumping and twirling between enemies and across the battlefield in a single combo seamlessly will be startlingly familiar if you’ve played the Dark Knight’s recent console outings.
Stringing long combos together is and stays incredibly satisfying throughout, and it evolves as you add more skills to your arsenal which allow you to prolong your combos even further. All told, combat is fast, fluid, and fun—especially when combined with the game’s focus bonus “time trial” medals, which push you to finish levels as fast as possible while maintaining a high combo and doing no damage.
Filling out the roster of requisite action RPG features is a complete upgrade system for the game’s main character and a summon system of sorts. Skills and equipment can be purchased and upgraded with a fairly straightforward if not uninspired progressions system, and you can earn the ability to summon unique pets by defeating the game’s handful of bosses.
Sadly, for all the framework wrapped around the game’s combat system, Brandnew Boy does come off as a bit of a one-note tune. Combat itself is satisfying, but it also lacks variety or depth in the long run, and the game’s story and progression systems do little to stave off fatigue should you play the game for hours on end.
Should the developers infuse the game’s core combat with a little more variety and flesh out the game’s other systems (skill trees for character development and more gear), a sequel to Brandnew Boy could find its place at the top of “best iOS RPGs” in short order. That said, the game you can buy today is a solid one in its own right, even if only for its unique, rhythmic combat.
Color me curious about what this developer does next.